High rent costs draining student maintenance loans, finds new research

Maintenance loans have not increased in line with the cost of living and so many students are left with little funds for other living expenses 

February 23 2018
High rent costs draining student loans

Now that the average student rent is £566 a month and the average maintenance loan from the government comes in at £602 a month, students are left with just £36 of their maintenance loan to cover the rest of their living costs. 

According to findings from the National Student Accommodation Survey, carried out by Save the Student, 44 per cent of students are struggling to keep up with high rents as the maintenance loan is just not enough to cover them. 

Charlie, a second-year student at Napier University, says the pressure to cover costs means less time to study: “I’m having to work a lot of extra hours, more and more often...I’m not much of a spender, which really gets to me as I don’t go out at all really and still struggle to pay rent and bills fairly regularly,” he says.

Unsurprisingly, students in London face the highest rents (£222 per week on average) although there are variations across all regions. The south east, south west and Wales have higher average rents than other areas but students do not receive the location-weighted loan allowance that students in London receive. 

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Additionally, one in three students believes that accommodation is poor value for money. Some 90 per cent of students have dealt with issues such as damp, lack of heating/water, and pests, and a third of students had to wait longer than a week for problems to be resolved. 

“I didn’t have a working fridge, washing machine, bath or shower (all of which were included in the tenancy agreement, in other words I was paying to have those amenities) for the first two months of living here. They didn’t fix it until I refused to pay any more rent until it was all fixed,” says Kel, a second-year student at the University of Kent in Canterbury.

Julia, a student at Sheffield Hallam University, pays £493 a month but lists “damp, sewage flood, dripping ceiling, carpet covered in 2cm of toilet water...broken window that wouldn’t close in the middle of December...condensation on window damaging university work and laptop” as some of the things she has had to deal with. 

Despite some of the stories about the condition of student housing, the most common issue for young renters is other housemates: 52 per cent say noisy housemates are a headache, while more than a third complain about other residents stealing food.

However there are some perks that come with student housing. On average, students are just 20 minutes away from their campuses and more than half of students said that their rent included bills.

Save the Student polled 2,246 students in the UK between 1 and 14 February 2018. The average maintenance loan (2017-18) presented here is based on household income of £35,000/year for students living away from home but outside London. 

Read more: The cheapest (and most expensive) cities for student rent

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